Quote of the Week 1
"I do not see his discussion of issues as serious. The words are frightening — how you're going to build a wall, how you're going to have Mexico pay for it. What does this mean? Let's be realistic in our discussions and how we discuss these issues with the American people."
— Gov. Hutchinson to NPR's Robert Siegel last week, referring to (who else?) Donald Trump. Over the weekend, Hutchinson urged Republican voters to reject Trump, saying "It is up to Arkansas to stop the Donald Trump show. The next generation of conservatives cannot allow Donald Trump to take everything we stand for and throw it away."
Quote of the Week 2
"Does anybody think Donald Trump is a racist? I don't. I mean, I really don't. I don't know of anything in his life that indicates that this man has racist tendencies."
—Former Gov. Mike Huckabee on MSNBC defending Trump after the billionaire recently soft-pedaled a repudiation of the Ku Klux Klan. Huckabee, whose own presidential ambitions fizzled in Iowa, has said he won't endorse anyone in the primary. However, his daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was recently hired by the Trump campaign as a senior adviser.
Why can't every Tuesday be Super Tuesday?
Arkansas's early primary date prompted visits last weekend from four of the remaining presidential candidates: Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton.
Cruz brought along histrionic patriot Glenn Beck to rally the true conservative faithful in Little Rock on Saturday. "I'm not interested in compromising," Cruz said — a selling point for his audience. Rubio appeared at two events, one in Rogers and one in Conway, where he continued taking on Trump. "I will never allow a con artist to take control of the party of Lincoln and Reagan, or the conservative movement," Rubio declared. We'll see about that. Trump stopped in Bentonville on Saturday to lob rambling insults at "little Rubio," and urge his supporters to get out the vote. "Maybe I'll start shopping permanently at Walmart if we win Arkansas," he added.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton made a stopover in Pine Bluff on Sunday night and vowed to return to the state if she's the Democratic nominee (despite the fact the Arkansas will almost certainly vote Republican in November.) "I am looking forward to coming back to Arkansas and campaigning in the general election," Clinton said.
What a waste
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission announced last week that an elk shot on the Buffalo National River in October has tested positive for chronic wasting disease, a degenerative neurological malady that strikes deer and their cousins. Similar to mad cow disease or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, chronic wasting disease is always fatal to infected animals; though endemic in some Western states, this is the first incidence of CWD in Arkansas. There's not yet clear evidence CWD is transmissible to humans or livestock, but its discovery is still very bad news for both hunters and wildlife in the state. To determine how widespread the disease may be, the Game and Fish Commission will be killing and testing as many as 300 deer and elk in a five-mile radius from where the first case was detected.
State Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) on Tuesday announced he had raised over $18,000 to construct a monument to the Ten Commandments to be placed at the Arkansas State Capitol. Rapert, who sponsored a 2015 law allowing for the installation of such a privately funded monument on the Capitol grounds, solicited the cash in a GoFundMe effort over the past two weeks. Left unsaid is whether his funders will absorb the cost of the inevitable First Amendment lawsuit against the state for so blatantly marrying Arkansas government with the Old Testament.
Buffalo River advocates
Last week, two federal agencies delivered a "finding of no significant impact" regarding C&H Hog Farm, the 6,500-animal facility located near a major tributary of the Buffalo National River. A coalition of community and environmental groups fighting to protect the Buffalo denounced the finding, which came from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) after a federal judge ruled that an earlier environmental assessment was inadequate. The coalition said the new finding "turn[ed] a blind eye to the overwhelming scientific consensus" regarding potential harm to water quality on the Buffalo.